Members of Council of General Synod discuss a resolution.
Photo: Leigh Anne Williams
Council of General Synod (CoGs) unanimously approved a balanced budget for the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod in 2011 when it met at its biannual meeting in Mississauga, Ont. from Nov. 18 to 21.
CoGS set a goal in 2008 of achieving a balanced budget by 2012, and that target has been met one year ahead of schedule.
“This is a tremendous step forward by the General Synod and the management team,” said Rob Dixon, chair of the Financial Management Committee. However, he noted that getting to the target was a difficult and painful process. “The cost of doing this for General Synod in staffing resources and ministry since 2008 has been cutting out $1.3 million.”
Over the past three years, 23 staff have been laid off. In the most recent round of cuts this fall, 14 staff positions were affected with 10 positions being eliminated and four revised. The Partnerships department was eliminated and with it almost all of the grants to global overseas partners. Some of the department’s work will now be overseen by its former director Henriette Thompson in a new role as co-ordinator of ecumenical, interfaith and government relations. The position of a full-time librarian at the General Synod offices will also be phased out this year while a way to maintain some of the library’s resources is still being sought.
This year’s cut, however, was not quite as deep as expected. Treasurer Michele George explained about $800,000 had to be cut instead of the anticipated figure of $1.1 million. That is because revenues are expected to be a bit higher than originally calculated. The Philanthropy department is projected to bring in $1.3 million and some additional revenue is also expected to come in when extra office space in the national office (created by the restructuring and staff cuts) will be rented out.
In spite of this fiscal accomplishment, George also warned that more challenges lie ahead. Approximately 85% of General Synod’s revenues depend on diocesan proportional giving, which has been declining by about three percent per year since the early 1990s. That situation has not changed, which makes for an ominous fiscal forecast. Projecting from this trend means, said George, “if we do nothing in terms of improving our revenue position, which is the key to the thing at this point…we’re back into trouble after 2012.”
The key to sustainability has two parts, she suggested. The first part is having “an affordable structure that is appropriate for the economic environment and church land as we know it today.” This, she hopes, has been accomplished by the recent restructuring.
The other component is stabilizing revenues. “That’s actually the bigger challenge because it is such an unknown, and it requires the co-operation and the buy-in by the Anglican Church [of Canada] as a whole.” The department of Philanthropy’s work will help to bring new money in to help the dioceses as well as the national church, but those revenues can’t replace proportional giving, she said. “The focus of the work must still be on that giving.”